Bad Job Interview? Ask for a Do-Over
Via The Wall Street Journal : Bad Job Interview? Ask for a Do-Over
Get second chances by admitting mistakes, offering more information; ask for feedback often and always follow up
You’ve blown a job interview or presentation. What if you could get a do-over?
A humble plea for a second chance sometimes reopens closed doors if it strikes just the right note: Email new evidence of your qualifications for a job. Apologize when you’ve misinterpreted a question, or send more information to clear up a misunderstanding.
Do-overs for job seekers are rare, and the few who get a second chance make an argument that is both highly persuasive and humble, says Susan Peppercorn, a senior consultant with ClearRock Inc., an executive-coaching and career-consulting firm in Boston. “The key to any redo is, what can you do for the company?” Ms. Peppercorn says.
Abhijit Phadnis was excited as an M.B.A. student years ago about landing a financial-manager position at a consumer-products company. He was deeply disappointed when he was rejected. At Ms. Peppercorn’s suggestion, Mr. Phadnis emailed the hiring manager thanking him and asking for feedback. He was told that his interview answers focused too much on his past work on various teams, and failed to explain how his individual skills fit the job.
Mr. Phadnis fired off an impassioned email asking the hiring manager for a second chance. Hoping the job hadn’t been filled yet, he admitted he hadn’t done as well as he should have in the interviews, explained that he had admired the company and used its products since childhood, and promised to offer additional information. “If you give me another chance, you won’t be disappointed. I’ll show I can do what you’re looking for,” he wrote.
A brief email soon arrived, suggesting he get in touch. After a phone call and another round of interviews, Mr. Phadnis got the job.
It isn’t enough simply to ask a stranger for a second chance. “You have to give them something new,” such as work samples or examples of past accomplishments, says Robert Hellmann, a New York career coach with the Five O’Clock Club.
To gauge whether you might need a do-over, try to get a sense of the impression you made and what interviewers saw as your weaknesses. Mr. Hellman suggests asking at the end of interviews, “How do you feel about moving my candidacy forward?” and “How do I compare with others you’re considering for the job?” You can also ask for such feedback by email immediately after the interview. Then provide information aimed at filling those gaps.
Even the most logical do-over requests may fail. A job interview was going well for Greg Zippi until he told the hiring manager travel wasn’t his favorite thing, though he was accustomed to it and entirely willing to do as much travel as needed, says Mr. Zippi, president of DecisionWise, a Springville, Utah, organizational development consulting firm. He soon learned he’d been rejected because the hiring manager “heard me say I didn’t want to travel,” Mr. Zippi says.
In a follow-up email, “I fell on my sword, saying, ‘I apologize if I confused you,’” and insisted he was willing to travel. But the door was closed, Mr. Zippi says.
Getting a do-over takes luck. After doing well in six interviews for a job years ago, Tom Borghesi assumed he had it locked up. He mistook an important talk with a senior executive who would be the final decision maker for a casual meet-and-greet. He showed up in khakis and a sport coat and was caught off-guard when the executive peppered him with questions about his résumé. The executive walked him out after only a few minutes, leaving him thinking, “That did not go well,” says Mr. Borghesi, chief operating officer of Open Systems Technologies, a New York staffing firm.
Mr. Borghesi called the executive and apologized, blaming himself and asking humbly for another chance. The executive said yes and Mr. Borghesi showed up for the second interview dressed “as if straight off a magazine cover,” taking pains to show respect, stand up straight, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. He got the job.
It is different to ask a boss or a colleague for a do-over. You might make a case that a second chance will benefit your team or department. A do-over can also be a quick way to recover from a misunderstanding.
Shaun Eli Breidbart was shocked when a boss told him in a performance review that he wasn’t showing enough initiative on his job as a bank employee.
Instead of waiting a year for the next review, he asked for another review in three months. He also began taking more initiative. The next review was much better, says Mr. Breidbart. Even so, he has since changed careers and is now a comedian and producer of comedy shows living in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Recovering from a failed presentation isn’t an easy fix, but it can be done. Mr. Hellmann coached a newly promoted marketing director whose boss criticized her after a presentation for finding fault with other departments and straying from the strategy he had set. She became defensive and walked out of the meeting.
Mr. Hellmann urged her to set aside her pride. She apologized to her boss, admitted she shouldn’t have been defensive, repeated his criticisms to ensure that she understood, and asked for a second chance to do a similar presentation. Her boss agreed, and her next performance was a success.
It isn’t wise to ask for a lot of do-overs at the same task, managers say. Jonathan Wasserstrum, chief executive officer of TheSquareFoot.com, a New York real estate technology company, grants them freely “as long as employees are trying to push the ball forward and challenge themselves,” he says.
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